07/05/2016

The Algarve is about to be destroyed by Oil companies - Your help is needed

We all know the problems that face our planet.  We all know the benefits of sustainable energy. However, what few people know is that in 2002 the Portuguese government decided to provide areas for prospecting, exploration, development and production of hydrocarbons in various regions of Portugal.

In response, groups of Portuguese citizens have decided to join the cause in order to inform those who are unaware of what is being done and what is planned in relation to oil and natural gas in Portugal.

At the very end of this post we will show you 4 ways you can help the Portuguese people


In October the Repsol/Partex consortium intends to proceed with the exploration of natural gas in the Algarve, five years after the signing of the contract with the Portuguese government. The consortium will begin to drill at about 40 to 50 kilometers from the coast, in front of Faro, capital city of the region of Algarve.

Citizen groups and environmentalists have criticized the awarding of oil concessions and natural gas in the Algarve. City Councils in the Algarve decided unanimously to appeal to the courts to try to
annul the contracts signed for the region.
 
The 16 mayors have decided to hire lawyers to undertake legal actions, such as injunctions, to prevent the accomplishment of these contracts, after getting no response from the Secretary of State for Energy.

Most of the concession contracts and exploitation of oil and gas signed between the Portuguese government and several oil companies do not comply with the law and European Community directives transposed into national legislation on environmental protection and the requirement to hold public discussions.

 


Laurinda Seabra worked as an engineer in the oil industry for three decades in South Africa. It is one of the founders of Asmaa, the Association of Surf and the Algarve Maritime Activities : "It makes more sense to have a development of alternative energy for the country. But when we heard the former Minister of the Environment, in public sessions, say that we have to reduce our ecological footprint, we find that curious because on one hand, they say one thing, and on the other, do just the opposite".


As former minister, Moreira da Silva (goverment in Portugal changed hands recently), concessioned half of the Faro district and an equally impressive part of the Algarve coastline for oil exploration. The award was based on a old outdated law from 1994, when global warming and environmental concerns were not considered. This law allowed the Government to deliver, without contest, the Algarve to Portfuel owned by the Portuguese business man Sousa Cintra for 122 years, when the contract expires. Apart from the absurd to be promoting fossil fuels when we all know that this path is not sustainable, there are three things to say about this deal.

Firstly, it violates laws and Community policies that require public consultation, participation of the people in these plans or the existence of a strategic environmental assessment.

Secondly, it raises questions about environmental and biological stability of the region. Contracts explicitly allow the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as a scanning technique. This technique is banned in several EU countries on acount of the dangers that represent to the quality of water, air, and the risks of leverage earthquakes, among others.

Thirdly, it is a bad deal for the region, because it clashes with agricultural activities, fishing and tourism. Also, the Portuguese government strangely negotiated stupid low profitability rates for concessions.

The more ridiculous aspect of this story is perhaps the names they gave to concessions in Algarve sea: lobster, crayfish, spider crab, prawn or crab. Perhaps as a tribute to the species threatened by these agreements, signed by the former Portuguese minister who may now be nominated the UN to protect us from climate change.

Job creation? Hand labor comes from abroad

Another argument used by those who defend the prospect is job creation. That makes no sense. "The hand-skilled labor that is needed will be imported. From Scotland, England, Germany, the United States or South Africa. Nothing is known about how the oil companies want to reduce the negative impact on communities resulting from prospecting and extraction of hydrocarbons.

Map of concessions given to oil and gas industries
The Algarve relies on tourism for job creation has it is perhaps it's major economic activity. The oil and gas industry exploration is not campatible with tourism as it will certainly have a damaging impact on the landscape and the coastline. Tourism will be afected, and many thousands of jobs will be lost in the already struggling portuguese economy.

"Fracking" is inadvisable in Europe

Several European countries already banned the use of the technique known as "fracking" - hydraulic fracturing of the soil to collect the gas and oil. The European Parliament adopted recommendations suggesting that member states do not opt ​​for this technique to collect gas or oil underground, due to the risks that it entails.

The president of the Trade Association and Services of the Algarve Region (ACRAL), Álvaro Viegas, is also concerned by the situation. Because, he says, we are talking about an activity that will have great impact on the region.

"We're not talking about running a simple site. We are talking about something that will have great impact on the region. Considering that from the 16 councils, 14 will be allocated to this operation, we can undersatnd the magnitude of this project." 

"Save our beaches before there is nothing else to save"
Álvaro Viegas points out the difference in environmental requirements between these concessions, as for example, a tourist village. "To build a village, an environmental impact study is required. For oil and gas exploration, this is not necessary. The law exonerated this study," he criticizes.

"Something here is not clear. As far as environmental impact or
common sense goes, I think issues raised from an oil exploration are far superior to the impact it may have a tourist village "he says. "All this has been done in great secrecy, wich is never a good sign."

Tourism in the Algarve

The president of the Association of Hotels and Resorts in the Algarve (AHETA) Elidérico Viegas, goes even further. Concessions "onshore" and "offshore" are "armful to regional and national interests. It is totally maladjusted" he says.

"At a time when tourism is a strategic national economic activity, undertaking an economic activity associated with another sector, which conflicts with tourism, is undermining an already consolidated sector, which is a strategic priority of the national economy".

Elidérico Viegas, recalls that the Algarve tourism represents a turnover of around six twounsand million euros per year, and that the Algarve represents more than 50% of national tourism activity. Our expectation is that the Government ruffle way and suspend the effectiveness of a measure that obviously can jeopardize a fully consolidated operation."

They are concerned about the sustainability of the region, as the Algarve has about two-thirds of its territory classified as National Agricultural Reserve, and the development of an activity related to hydrocarbon exploration will endanger the
ecological and environmental equilibrium of the region.
 
The Government knows it's bad but they're doing it anyway

Elvira Martins also part of the Platform Algarve Free from Oil, considers that this is the right time to reverse these concession agreements. "The regional councils have shown that they are against it, business associations too, and civil society as well".

The contracts represent only advantages for the contrators, according to Elvira Martins. "The tax and fee that has been agreed will only be paid after the companies recover all prospecting, development and operating costs, and only when they reach a positive net result," she explains. Rosa Guedes believes that, in legal terms, signed concession contracts respect the old portuguese law, but not the EU directives transposed into national law.

"This law on the oil industry has not had a single change since 1994. Since then,
EU directives have been transposed into national law on environmental issues."

How can you help the Algarve ?

There are ways you can help the beautiful region of the Portuguese Algarve, it's people, nature and fauna. 

1. Please send your thoughts with the portuguese parliament using this link.

We will help you with the form. You only need to fill out:

"Nome" - your name
"Email" - your email adress
"Confirme o seu email" - Confirm your email adress ... just put in your email adress again.
"Assunto" - Title of your message, regarding ...
"Mensagem" - Your message to the portuguese MPs

2. Do you have technical habilities, are involved in social media, or can you translate this info in to your own language?

Please get involved and contact the following :

The RiseUp Portugal team here, or by email to ruportugal@gmail.com

3. Share this post. Spread awereness in your own country.  

We are fighting a battle against giants and we welcome all the help we can get. Please share this post, this info, these videos in your country and amongst your friends. Send this info to activist groups or facebook pages you might think could help. The beautiful portuguese coastline is about to be destroyed for ever on acount of fracking, oil and gas exploration. 

4. Appeal to you local and national mainstream media

The Algarve and the portuguese coastline is loved by millions of people around europe and the world that visit us every year. This issue is of public interest not only in Portugal but also in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, China, Japan, USA ... and many other nations, from where their tourists kindly spend their hollidays in Portugal. Please send this information to your local and national mainstream media and appeal for them to explore, post or broadcast this issue.




This article was written by the RiseUp Portugal team. You need no previous authorization from us to copy and post it yourself, translate it, or use it as you see fit.

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